Harvard announced earlier this week that all course instruction will be delivered online, including for students living on campus. In a statement provided to CNN, the university said the guidance stands to affect approximately 5,000 international students.
"The order came down without noticeits cruelty surpassed only by its recklessness. It appears that it was designed purposefully to place pressure on colleges and universities to open their on-campus classrooms for in-person instruction this fall, without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors, and others," Harvard University President Larry Bacow said.
The agency suggested that students currently enrolled in the US consider other measures, like transferring to schools with in-person instruction.
The lawsuit also underscores the challenge posed to students: "Just weeks from the start of the fall semester, these students are largely unable to transfer to universities providing on-campus instruction, notwithstanding ICE's suggestion that they might do so to avoid removal from the country."
It continues: "Moreover, for many students, returning to their home countries to participate in online instruction is impossible, impracticable, prohibitively expensive, and/or dangerous."
Harvard and MIT's lawsuit also received support from Cornell, which is joining as a friend of the court. The university said its international students will largely not be affected due to hybrid teaching, but expressed strong opposition.
"This was wholly unexpected, and it is a senseless and unfair policy that runs counter to all that we stand for as a global academic community," said Martha E. Pollack, president of Cornell University.